Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

I really enjoy Halloween, and hope you're having fun, too.  Nope, I'm not dressed up, and my yard isn't full of pumpkins and spider webs.  I love answering the door, seeing the children, and saying hello to the parents.

We're acquainted with a lot of our neighbors, meeting them when we walk our dog, who is a cute terrier mix mutt.  In our neighborhood, there's a great elementary school, so we have lots of little ones.

Instead of candy, I like to give out other treats.   Sometimes I choose the items, and sometimes I can get one of the boys or John to help shop.

The best thing I ever gave out was Little Little Golden Books - just like the ones we had as children, same stories, but tiny, about 2-1/2" square.  They were inexpensive, adorable, and the children loved them.  Unfortunately, I can't find them any more, and I'd like to find something similar.

We started out giving out glow sticks and glow necklaces, which the kids liked, and the parents appreciated the safety factor.  Gradually, our neighbors started taking their kids out much earlier than they used to, so the glowing items didn't appeal to me as much.  Besides, I kept finding duds - if they get shaken around, it starts the chemical reaction and they end up dark on the big night.

With that in mind, the next year we purchased little gliders, cars, bouncy balls, and sparkly necklaces. The kids liked them okay, but the year we discovered long, stuffed snakes from Oriental Trading, we found the new favorite.  We had an assortment of choices, and the snakes went first.  Both boys and girls absolutely prefer them over anything I've given out since the tiny Golden Books.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quick Project

Last weekend at the fiber fair, I was demonstrating how to make a sew-as-you-go beret with the yarn I'd brought along for bulky demos - some monkey brown and bright red that I had - and as usual, I made a baby size so the demo would go quickly.  I alternated the colors beach-ball style since I didn't have a variegated yarn with me.  This hat is in the Goldilocks book in four sizes for the bulky machine, but the techniques are the same as the Tam Take Two video.

Generally, when you teach, you make little piles of goofy swatches.  Two whole days of knitting, and it gets to be quite a pile, but nothing anybody could call a project.

This little demo item looked like it would be cute, and our club needs baby stuff for the childrens' shelter, so I finished it.  Finishing it requires one Kitchener seam, a short bit of mattress stitching to join the ribbing, and in this case, I added the pom-pom.  I had told the class I was planning to sew it up, so now they can see it here.

I enjoy making small projects - hats, scarves, slippers, and the like. Whipping up some little goodie at the end of a long day is a great feeling.

What small projects are you knitting?  I saw dozens and dozens of very small projects at the fair (even small jobs take a while with hand knitting) - shawlettes, cowls, hats, fingerless gloves, and the like.

By the way, Knit Natters club is holding a "Knit In" in November, making lap robes.  We'll have a great day at the church, and Cupcake has promised to grill burgers for us.  For my knitting, I thought I'd set up a knitting machine with its ribber, bring some coned stash I need to reduce, and do various ribbed patterns.  Once you bind off and hide the ends, you've got a finished project.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fiber Fair versus Machine Knitting Club Seminar

I attended SAFF, lucky me!  I so appreciate getting to participate and teach at that marvelous event.

We just got home yesterday, and we're back in our routine.

The SAFF event was the first fiber fair where I've taught.  I do attend a fiber fair in Texas most years with friends, but I haven't taught before. 

SAFF is a wonderful fair, with an enormous number of vendors selling all kinds of tempting goodies and lots and lots of teachers and classes.  This is quite a different focus from a machine knitting club's seminar, and since you may not have ever attended a fiber fair, I thought I'd try to describe it.

First of all, a fiber fair is critter-oriented - goats, angora rabbits, sheep, llamas, and alpacas.  You see lots of farm trucks and livestock trailers.  Many attendees are spinners.  Working with fleece isn't such an easy proposition as buying a bag of yarn - there's the cleaning of the fleece, the carding, spinning, plying, and dyeing, all before you can begin to knit.  At SAFF I saw lots of people carrying huge bags of fleece, lots of spinning wheels, carding machines and tools, and dyes. 

I admit I'm not much for making my own yarn.  I need too much yarn too fast!  I know, always after my next fix... However, when you're at a big fiber fair you can easily lose your heart and your disposable income to the amazing, soft, gloriously colored yarns available from natural fibers.  A fiber fair is absolutely the most wonderful place to find the Really.  Good.  Stuff.  At a fiber fair, you can not only pet an angora rabbit, you can pet the most glorious yarns.

The alpacas are adorable, but there's no way I can bring one home.  For one thing, we live in a suburb, and it's against our homeowners association rules, and for another, you can't have just one, because they pine away without companions.  However, I could bring home some heavenly soft alpaca yarn to pet!  And later, knit it into something heavenly soft to wear. 

I also found it very, very stimulating to look at all the displays and get a sense of what people are hand knitting and crocheting just now.  I liked seeing the popular colors and fibers, sweater shapes and embellishments, as well as some of the small projects people are doing.  It's also awesome to just look at what fiber folks are WEARING - sweaters, hats, shawls, and scarves. 

At the end of the day, what was the most fun about the fiber fair?  Why, the people, of course!  John and I met absolutely lovely folks.  It's a huge congregation of kindred souls, most of them dressed in knits. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fabulous Fiber Fair - And, It's Not Too Late!

John and I are in Franklin, North Carolina, and I'm getting ready to teach all day tomorrow.  We have spaces!  In fact, the class will be quite intimate - I usually have 35-50, and we have a much smaller group, as this is primarily a spinning, hand knitting, and weaving kind of event.  I should have split my classes up more, but the way I set it my schedule, you have to commit to a day (9-4). 

Tomorrow (Saturday), I'm teaching on a bulky machine, my entrelac techniques, basic techniques, garter bar tricks, all kinds of things that apply to almost any machine but are easiest to see on the bulky.  Sunday, we're setting up a standard gauge machine to teach lace and ribber techniques, including my Enchanted Edgings and a bunch of other cool stuff.  I've made terrific bound handouts for everyone and brought a boatload of knitted samples.  John also put out "Are You Curious About Machine Knitting" brochures in the main entrance, doing our bit to try to popularize machine knitting.

And oh, the SAFF fiber fair is fabulous!  There are SO many vendors, so much gorgeous yarn, so many pretty patterns, and beautiful spinning wheels.  We gave the vendor area a walk-through and found wool, cotton, alpaca, yak, bamboo, and mink fibers, plus mountains of roving and fleece.  This is also a lovely area with lots to see and do.  We wish we had a lot more days!  John and I combined this trip with some sightseeing.  We drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway; we went to Friends and Fiberworks, a marvelous local yarn shop, and best of all, we went to see the Biltmore House. 

Need more Info?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ten Simple Essentials for Every Machine Knitter

1.  Measuring tape.  It doesn't have to be fancy, just flexible, fairly long, and marked in both inches and centimeters.

2.  Yarn winder.  Always rewind skeined yarn and avoid frustration!   Our machines use up yarn so fast that they need yarn that feeds quickly, smoothly, and evenly. My favorite yarn winder of all time is the jumbo hand winder, which holds a whole pound of yarn. 

3.  Sturdy knitting stand.  Article on using a good stand, here.

4.  Wipe-off markers (I like Crayola washable markers and also Vis-à-Vis washable markers.  Avoid permanent markers.

5.  Ravel cord.  You might have gotten a couple of yards of ravel cord with your knitting machine, and it was plain white.  Supplement that!  I love Omega's Artiste nylon cord, which I find at Hobby Lobby (buy hundreds of yards cheap, get whatever color you want, and use all you need).

6.  A sheet, for covering your machine.  You want a piece of fabric that blocks light but breathes.

7.  A vacuum, for cleaning your machine.

8.  A spiral notebook to keep near the machine and write down notes and ideas.

9.  A pocket calculator, for working out the stitches and rows for shape.

10.  Oil for lubricating your machine.  Beware:  you must use very light oil that will not harm plastic.  I like Hoppe's Elite Gun Oil. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Running a BIG Seminar from a SMALL Club

I'm a little late finishing and posting this, but after yet another awesome seminar from a small club (in this case, three small clubs participated - Canfield seems like a pretty small town to me), I've been thinking about clever things I've seen small clubs do to put on a BIG, FUN seminar.  Here's are big take-aways for those of you who want to grow your clubs, popularize machine knitting, and generally have a fantastic time at your very own seminar.

1.  Is your club too small, or have you no club at all?  Go to Yahoo Groups and look at those machine knitting forums, check out Ravelry, and look for machine knitters in your area! Phone your local yarn shops and hobby stores.  Contact sister groups within 100 miles.  You have to begin somewhere, and the place to begin is to see if you have some people who might participate.

2.  Line up your volunteers.  Be bold about asking people to help, beg family members to pitch in, and work through a list of tasks together.  Find a determined leader to champion the project. 

3.  Build a budget.  Our first seminar at Knit Natters decided that we couldn't afford to use any of our club's cash in the bank.  You need to build a break-even budget for your seminar, but if you have a little balance to start, you'll be willing to follow a more ambitious budget.  You have to start somewhere, but once you start, you have momentum for the next seminar.

4.  Find a location.  Be creative!  Here are some places I've taught seminars, so far:

  • City offices
  • Museum community room
  • Church classroom
  • Living room at a knitter's home (photo is the Chicago group holding a terrific seminar in a gorgeous living room)
  • Community college classrooms
  • Fairground buildings
  • Library community room
There are other places you can use, too - some companies will let you use a conference room.  Hotels and conference centers have rooms for rent.  Ask around, do Google searches, and you'll be surprised.

4.  Set the date - this needs to happen at the same time as working out the location and the volunteers. You need months of lead time!  It's not that you're working that whole time, it's that you're allowing time and repeated contacts to find your teacher(s), attendees, and get your work done.

5.  Line up classes - if your club has nothing in the treasury, you can probably divide up demo duty among members, but if you've got a few bucks, seriously consider a professional teacher.

With a little bit of money in the hopper, perhaps from the last seminar, you can look at engaging someone fascinating, someone your club doesn't see all the time.  Brainstorm about which teachers you might like to have, contact them and see what they charge.  Expect to pay for travel; a teacher can't do a small seminar and pay for airfare from merchandise sales, typically.  A distant teacher will cost more than a nearby one.

Talk to knitters who have attended various teachers' seminars, and collect opinions about the different teachers and the kind of work they do.

6.  Engage your teacher.  A machine knitting teacher likes to get specific information, for instance, the hours they'll work, what the venue is like, how many people, and my favorite, most requested demonstrations.  I love to know, as a demonstrator, what mix of beginners, intermediates, and experts are in the room.  Do I want to go over basics or spend time on unusual techniques?  Is this group into fashion, home decor, charity knitting, or DAK?

7.  Go into party-planning mode.  You need to deal with food, drinks, seating, video, sound, parking, etc.  You are essentially giving an all-day party for knitters.   Focus on FUN, and split up the work!

8.  Add sweeteners for an extra-fun day.  Here are examples of sweeteners I've seen done very effectively at seminars:
  • Handouts - ask your teacher for them, and print them.  Most knitters expect printed materials. 
  • Raffles - could be money, yarn, equipment
  • Mystery gifts
  • Door prizes
  • Games & goofy contests
  • Swap table, where knitters can sell their extras
  • Merchandise for sale
  • Hands-on activities (in the photo, Sarah and Sylvia, working with a drop spindle)
  • Book swaps or free book tables
  • Swap bulletin boards
  • Live and silent auctions
  • Snacky breaks (my two favorites so far - popsicles on a hot day and homemade cookies)
  • Fashion shows
  • Dinner outings at the end of the day, for those who wish
Your seminar time together is limited, so you can't do too many things.  Tailor these goodies to your particular group, and schedule them into break times and lunch times.  Early afternoon is a great time to do something unusual.  You need to get people out of the chairs if you can, and avoid the after-lunch doziness.

9.  Promote, promote, promote!  Make sure your advertising has enough contact, price and calendar information so knitters can work out quickly whether they can attend. Use lots of free or cheap advertising vehicles:
  • Web forums like Ravelry, Facebook and Yahoo Groups
  • Free community ads in the newspaper
  • Public service announcements on local radio
  • Mailing lists, including email lists
  • Magazines and bloggers, if they'll help
  • Your teacher, who may have a website or business
  • Posters in local businesses, especially related ones
  • Craigslist
10.  Execute with a joyful spirit!  On the day of the seminar, keep in mind these realities:
  • Get your team there early to set up and test the equipment - it's nice if you can set up the day before, but that's usually not possible.
  • Have a backup plan if a knitting machine doesn't work, there's a glitch in setup that takes extra time, or some other thing goes wrong.  I always put a few bonus materials in the back of my handouts, and I can skip to them if a machine doesn't work.  You can always entertain the crowd if they have to wait a few minutes by doing one of your sweetener activities.
  • Start the day with coffee, tea, and breakfasty snacks, if folks drove a while.
  • Have someone willing to stand up and direct everyone - get folks to sit and quiet down, do a little fun sweetener activity, and introduce the teacher.  This person needs to be loud and assertive, but only if necessary.  You need to start on time, get back from breaks on time, and it's just occasionally necessary to ask people to quiet down or pay attention.  Have that person appointed before you begin the day.
  • Divide up the cleanup chores, and leave the space in great shape. 
Small things usually go wrong, but a terrific attitude makes all the difference.  Simply be adaptable and keep your sense of humor and awareness that being able to put on a seminar is a big blessing.

BTW, the last photo is me, at my chubbiest, at the Knit Natters seminar two years ago!  We're starting to talk about a seminar for next year. 


Sunday, October 13, 2013

NEW! October Video - Lattice Lace on the Silver Reed (Studio) Machine


I get lots of requests for Silver Reed videos, so here's one!  This pretty lacy ripple is something I first did, long ago, on the Brother machine, then the Toyota machine, and now, here it is on the Studio.  What makes it ripple is the slant of the transferred stitches.  You don't need to block or force the ripple to happen; it's integral to the stitch structure.

While I have not had any success doing the automatic scalloped edges on the Studio, it does a wonderful job knitting lace.  The way it transfers stitches and knits all in one pass, it zips out lace FAST!  Here's an old favorite lace pattern for the many situations where you want all-over laciness.

By the way, the way this is punched and the way the needles are arranged (do full repeats of 24, please) you won't need to worry about edge stitches. 

SEMINAR THIS MONTH:  Say, have you been thinking about the Asheville, North Carolina seminar?   Get registered, if you want to come.  I promise you two days of packed lessons, a little basic, a little advanced, something for everyone.  Here's that website:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sharing a Video from Anna at Art Machines

You don't need to understand any Russian to enjoy this terrific ribber video from Anna at Art Machines:

Inspiring, as always, Anna!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Very Cool Article

I read lots of business-oriented articles people forward me, and once in a blue moon I see one I want to share!  I know, this is a hobby-oriented blog, but here's one I think y'all will like:  "21 Awesome Things to Say to Yourself."